President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced stricter Covid-19 coronavirus restrictions, including the banning of alcohol sales and extending a nationwide curfew, as infections shot through the one million mark owing to a faster-spreading variant of the virus.
The country has recorded the highest number of Covid-19 infections on the continent, with 1 004 413 cases reported and nearly 27 000 deaths.
Daily cases started rising rapidly at the end of November, to between 10 000 and 14 000.
The new variant, referred to as 501.V2, was discovered by a network of scientists around South Africa who have been tracking the genetics of the virus.
It has led to a number of countries, including Britain and Germany, banning flights from the country.
Ramaphosa said in a televised address that Cabinet had decided to move the country to level 3 restrictions from level 1.
This would include the total banning of alcohol sales, widespread cancelling of events and making the wearing of masks in public mandatory.
The nationwide curfew would move to 9pm to 6am, Ramaphosa said.
Public parks, beaches, dams, rivers and public swimming pools in hotspot areas will be closed.
The president said a number of districts and municipalities had been added to the hotspot list.
These areas could be subject to further restrictions, he said.
“We now have to flatten the curve to protect the capacity of our healthcare system to enable it to respond effectively to this new wave of infections,” Ramaphosa said.
“These restrictions may be reviewed in the next few weeks if we see a sustained decline in infections,” he added.
Gauteng, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape were the worst hit provinces and accounted for most of areas now considered as hotspots.
Areas in the Limpopo province were also added to the list. – Reuters